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Wellness Research

General Womens Wellness Research

The following research information was gathered through our extensive research on the side effects of Breast Cancer. As time, treatments and side effects wore on, the topics began to evolve toward general women's wellness issues. Also, please see our links and books pages for additional information and reference.
Ten Tests That Could Save Your Life or The Quality of Your Life
Ten Tests That Could Save Your Life
or The Quality of Your Life
As a woman approaches middle age there are ten health tests recommended for all: (Earlier if you are at a high risk for a disease) If your doctor does not suggest these tests you need to be the smart health consumer and request the test. Yearly pap smear which detects cervical cancer These excerpts were taken from Better Homes and Gardens, April 1999 The Test That Can Save a Woman's Life by Michele Meyer "Cases of cervical cancer, once the number-one cancer that killed women, have plunged by 70 percent in the past 50 years, and deaths from the disease have tumbled sevenfold. The reason? A simple lab test, created by George Papanicolaou, in which cells are collected from the cervix during a pelvic exam. The Pap smear is painless and fast, and it alerts women to abnormalities of the cervix years before cells develop into cancer. The test is so effective that, each year, less than 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and less than 5,000 die of the disease, reports the American Cancer Society. All a woman needs to do is visit a skilled doctor who uses a credible laboratory. But cancer usually kills those who fail to get tested. Four out of five who die of cervical cancer did not have the exam in the preceding five years according to the College of American Pathology. As women get older, they're less likely to get a Pap. Last year, early 40 percent of women didn't, even when they knew they should. Half of these women were 50 or older, an age of greater risk since nearly 60 percent of all cervical cancers are found in women over age 55." Some tips: Get the test done every year. Learn about the lab: Ask about the lab and if its accredited. Ask if the lab's rate of atypical cell reports exceeds 6 percent. Be concerned if your doctor does not know anything about the lab. Never let cost deter you. Prepare for the exam: schedule your Pap two weeks after your menstrual cycle begins and avoid intercourse, baby powder, tampons, or vaginal creams two days prior to your appointment. Postpone the test if you have a yeast infection. Be sure the exam is done properly: Specimens should be taken with a tiny plastic broom or a mascaralike wand for the inner cervix and with a spatula for the outer area. BOTH areas should be sampled. Collected material is placed on a glass slide so your cells can be studied under a microscope. The slide should be immediately sprayed and labeled. Consider the newest technology: Two computer-assisted screenings-AutoPap and PAPNET- can double check and sometimes replace a pathologist's analysis. Another new technology is ThinPrep. This test places the samples in a tube of special solution that filters out blood and other obstructions to the cervical lining cells. Make the call for your appointment. The five categories of Lab results:
Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance: Irregular cells that bear watching. They occur in about 5 percent of the women. Wait three to five months and test again. Should the test be positive again a colposcopy (a binocularlike instrument which magnifies the cervix) should be performed to view abnormalities more closely. Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions or Mild dyslplasia: This is a precursor to cancer and also requires a colposcopy, biopsy, and then a repeat pap. High-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions: This means you have significant precancer that needs colposcopy, biopsy, and subsequent removal of the irregular tissue. A typical Glandular Cells of Undetermined Significance: This means there are changes in the cervical canal's lining, occurring in .5 percent of women. These may need colposcopy, biopsy, and a follow up exam in three months. Invasive cervical cancer: requires biopsy and usually removal of the cervix and radiation treatments.
  • Clinical Breast exam and/or mammogram
  • Dermatologist screening for skin cancer/melanoma
  • Blood test for iron deficiency/anemia
  • Blood sugar test for diabetes
  • Blood cholesterol level of good and bad (Heart Disease)

    These excerpts were taken from Better Homes and Gardens, September 1998 Women and Heart Disease, by Todd Murphy

    "In an era when many women dread breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer, most don't recognize a jolting reality: As many women die from heart disease as from ALL cancers combined. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lives; one in 25 will die of it. But one in three women will die of coronary heart disease or heart attack. Heart disease is by far the biggest killer of women 55 and older. By the time a woman reaches 60 she has as much chance of having a heart attack as a man. Women don't understand symptoms that suggest possible heart problems and what's worse many doctors don't know facts either. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop heart disease. And postmenopausal women are much more likely to develop the disease than premenopausal women. Taking HRT can reduce the risk for postmenopausal women. Premenopausal women who smoke and use oral contraceptives are anywhere from 20 to 40 times more likely to have a heart attack and is more likely to die from the heart attack than a non-smoker.
Eat right and monitor your cholesterol. Two things that are important are the ratio of the level of HDL (good) cholesterol to the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. High levels of HDL, which seem to clear cholesterol out of your system, lower your risk for heart disease. Lower levels of HDL appear to be a stronger heart disease risk factor for women than for men." Following are some important numbers to be aware of:
Total Cholesterol:
Desirable
Borderline risk
High risk
less than 200
200-239
240 or higher
LDL or "BAD" cholesterol:
Desirable
Borderline risk
High risk
less than 130
130-159
160 or higher
HDL or "GOOD" cholesterol:
Desirable
Borderline risk
High risk
35 or higher
less than 35
less than 35
  • Source: American Heart Association Another important factor is the level of triglycerides, another fat substance in the body. The triglyceride level seems to play a greater role in determining the risk of heart disease for women than it does for men. WATCH YOUR WEIGHT: Obesity increases strain on your heart, raises blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels, and can induce diabetes. The easiest way to deal with these issues is to eat smart. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get no more than 30 percent of their daily total calories from fat, and that they especially watch their intake of cholesterol and saturated fat. Women who have a high percentage of fat in their diet also have high levels of total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. Physical inactivity nearly doubles your risk for heart disease. And exercise doesn't have to mean running mini marathons every month. You can gain substantial health benefits from doing just 30 minutes of a moderate-level activity, such as walking, gardening or yardwork every day. The American Heart Association wants women in this country to take their health to heart. By dialing toll-free 888.694.3278 (888.MY.HEART) women can receive free information on heart attacks and strokes. Bone Density This excerpt is from the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter, June 1999 "Evidence is coming to light that preventing osteoporosis may depend not just on dairy nutrients like calcium and vitamin D but also on two other substances found in a healthful diet: potassium and magnesium. Good sources of both include fruits and vegetables, milk, and whole grains.
In the first large study on the subject, scientists from Tufts University's Research Center on Aging analyzed data from hundreds of men and women in the well-known Framingham Heart Study to see whether diets high in potassium and magnesium might translate into stronger bones. They found that those men and women whose diets were highest in those two minerals had higher bone density readings than the rest of the group. One possible explanation is that average diets can create an acid environment in the body--and minerals from bone may be drawn out to neutralize it. But the potassium and magnesium in foods like fruits and vegetables are thought to buffer the acid, thus stemming the drawing of minerals from bone tissue." The study participants got very little of the two minerals from supplements. Simply getting enough fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and milk in your diet--a good wellness plan to follow in general is the best plan for getting these minerals.
  • Eye Exam
  • Gum Probing for gum disease
  • Blood Occult test for colon/rectal cancer
In addition early screening for Kidney Failure These excerpts were also taken from the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter: June 1999 "Have you ever had you urine tested to see if there's protein in it? The National Kidney Foundation says you should, particularly if you have diabetes or high blood pressure; are overweight (especially around the middle); elderly; African American or Hispanic; or have a family history of heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. Protein in the urine indicates compromised kidney function, and these groups are a greater-than-average risk for that problem. High blood pressure alone, which affects some 50 to 60 Americans, is the second-leading cause of kidney failure in the U.S. And Diabetes which afflicts about 15 million Americans, is the leading cause. Combined, those two conditions account for more than 60 percent of all new cases of kidney failure every year. Unfortunately, many people with diabetes or high blood pressure don't even know they have those conditions let alone an increased risk for kidney disease.....Many lives could be saved, however, if a standard test to detect kidney damage--a simple urine analysis--were administered more routinely. The test looks for protein in the urine called albumin. If it's there it's a sign that the kidneys are "leaky". Think of the kidneys, two fist-sized organs in your back that are located just below the rib cage, as made of a material akin to fine cheesecloth. Every day 800 cups of fluid flow through them. Most of them get recycled, but approximately eight cups leave the body as urine. If the consistency of the kidney cloth is not just so it cannot do its filtering job properly, leaking some things into the urine that should have remained in the body. One of the things the kidneys are supposed to keep in the body is protein, so if it is detected in urine, it means that the kidney cloth has lost its proper texture and that kidney damage has occurred. At that point, the patient should be referred to a nephrologist (kidney specialist). Measuring the level of protein in the urine is important not just for detecting kidney problems. It's also important for identifying an increased risk of cardiovascular complications. Those with diabetes and high blood pressure whose kidneys are leaking protein are much more apt than their counterparts with normally functioning kidneys to suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke. In fact, many more people with compromised kidney function die of one of those events long before their kidneys give out. Once the kidneys start to go, metabolic changes in the body that pave the way for heart disease begin to accelerate." Some tips for better sleep: Most woman are aware that they should avoid chocolate, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine before bedtime to improve sleep. BUT did you know that some very popular over-the-counter pain relievers have as much -- or--more caffeine than a cup of coffee. ALSO are you aware that an iron deficiency or a need for more vitamin E could be responsible for restless leg syndrome, which is an urge to move the legs that disrupts the sleep of as many as five in every 100 people? Following some moderate life-style modifications can ensure a better night's sleep. None involve dramatic, uncomfortable changes. They're mostly about what and when you eat and the medications you take. The over-the-counter pain reliever that you take so you can get a good night's sleep may actually be causing sleeplessness. A two-tablet dose of Extra Strength Excedrin, for example, contains 130 mgs of caffeine. Anacin contains 64 milligrams. If taken in six hour intervals as the label suggests is like drinking 6 cups of coffee. Check the label on any over-the-counter pain killer for active ingredients. That's where the caffeine will be listed. A number of cold medicines can also hinder sleep. These medicines frequently have ingredients like pseudoephedrine and phenyl-propanolamine, which act as stimulants. Physician-prescribed drugs can interfere with sleep in a number of cases. Some of those drugs include diuretics which cause the body to flush out water through urination. Anti-depressants such as Prozac can cause sleeplessness as well. And some people are kept up because of overmedication with thyroid drugs. Anyone taking a drug on a long term basis who is having difficulty sleeping should speak to a physician about whether the drug could be at least partly responsible. If so, perhaps the dosage of the drug or the timing of taking it could be adjusted. Eating late is likely to result in high levels of stomach acid that can provoke discomfort at bedtime. For people who suffer from the gastric distress of heartburn or ulcers, its an especially salient point. Conversely, going to bed hungry can ruin a good night's sleep. A relatively low level of blood sugar from having gone many hours without food causes the release of a hormone called glucagon, which allows for the transport of some more sugar into the bloodstream. But glucagon has side effects that are very similar to adrenaline. A glass of warm milk or a small amount of carbohydrates (popcorn or bagel) can help stimulate melatonin for sleep. Many believe that an amino acid in milk called tryptophan is what allows for sleepiness. Chamomile tea is suggested to have the same sedative effect. It is suggested for both tea and milk that the quiet act of soothing yourself before sleep may actually be the secret. A warm soothing bath can also help. Drinking alcoholic beverages before bedtime interferes with substances in the brain that allow for continuous sleep. People who have a nightcap actually often end up with fragmented slumber that leaves them fatigued throughout the next day. The FDA has approved the first vaccine to prevent Lyme Disease, a tickborne ailment that affects people in the Midwest, Northeast and California. The vaccine, LYMErix requires three shots over one year to build immunity and is recommended for anyone over the age of 15 who lives or works in wooded areas infested with ticks. I have been informed that it is not recommended for senior citizens. Please ask your doctor for age recommendations. Tips for Cancer Prevention:
  • Lung Cancer: Do not smoke or quit smoking. Studies show that lung cancer is associated with a high-fat diet. Other research points to the benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Breast Cancer: Lose weight. Obesity is harmful because fat cells produce estrogen in addition to what the ovaries also produce. While some estrogen is necessary for strong bones and heart, excessive amounts increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Get screened. The tests for this cancer can often detect polyps before they become cancerous. Having a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is easy and relatively painless. Unless you have a history it is recommended that you should begin screening around age 50. Annually around age 50 it is recommended to have a fecal occult blood test which tests for hidden blood in the stool. A plant-based diet high in fiber is recommended. Alcohol and smoking increase risk. Limit consumption of red meat to no more than three or four times a week and don't overcook it.
  • Ovarian Cancer: At normal risk ask physician about birth control pills for five years to possibly decrease risk.
  • Uterine Cancer: Stay slim. Keeping your weight in normal range is important. Obese women tend to produce unusually high levels of circulating estrogen-like hormones made by the adrenal glands. Good nutrition and exercise are important to prevent type II diabetes, which is another risk factor for this cancer.
  • Cervical Cancer: Get a yearly pap smear. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus which is sexually transmitted and therefore preventable. You are at risk if you have multiple sex partners or if your partner has had multiple sex partners. Condoms offer some protection, but not if the virus has spread beyond the area the condoms cover. Quit smoking.
  • Skin Cancer: Light skinned people are at greatest risk. If you have many moles, large moles of 1/4 inch or more in diameter, or family history you are at greater risk. Cover up with shirts and hats. Use sun screen, stay in the shade, wear sunglasses and avoid sun lamps. Stay out of the intense sun during 10:00 to 3:00.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following: Eat mostly fiber-rich plant-based foods--grains, beans and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Keep fat intake under 30 percent of total calories to prevent obesity. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day.
 

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and is NOT presented as qualified advice or council. Please use this information as a guide or reference point
when consulting with your private physician (s).

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